GQ: Mark Penn On Why She Lost

Looking at the big picture down the road, years from now, how do you think history will view this campaign? Well, they're always going to look at it and say, "Well, it was a surprise that she didn't win." And they'll look at her and say, "She was the first woman that had a real opportunity." Look, we never know what's gonna happen later on. A lot of people have come back. It's pretty unusual for somebody to win the nomination the first time out. History is really quite the opposite. The expected in politics is the unexpected... The reason that I would have gone after him early was precisely because I didn't underestimate the power of a Fresh New Candidate who also had appeal to the African-American vote and the latte voters. To put them together, into a very strong coalition supported by money and the press? Absolutely I saw all that. Absolutely… But: How do you stop something like that, right? You don't stop something like that by being "warmer" [snorts]—by, you know, giving an interview on a personality show.

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Was the inevitability thing you? No. Inevitability is a concept from the opponents, okay? We ran, though, as somebody who was the front-runner, as somebody who had the strength. She had the experience. She had, you know, then, the political establishment behind her. You know, front-runners typically win against challengers. That's been the pattern. So it was never a notion that she was inevitable. It was a notion, though, that she was running as a big candidate, the kind of person you want to turn to as president and you say, "I really believe this is somebody who can do this job, and do this job the way the great presidents have done this job."

So who started it? No, I think the Obama campaign called us inevitable. And that stuck with the media. But that wasn't something that we were actively selling. We were selling the idea that she was ready to be president, that she had broad support across the country, and that she was the candidate who could win.

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Highlights from the GQ Interview with Mark Penn (cont.)

What happened in October? How was that the turning point? Well, October of '07 we were forty points ahead. What happened in October, or really the beginning of November, was that Barack Obama personally attacked Hillary Clinton. Called her disingenuous. They attacked her in the debate on the driver's licenses… And until then, basically, people were declaring the race over. The message strategy had been so successful that everybody was declaring it over. And they got so frustrated that what the Obama camp did was that they restrategized. And they concluded, obviously, the only thing they could do was attack her personally. It took us a while to kind of throw off those basic attacks. And I think that it was a tough organization to respond to that. You know, the response to a lot of those attacks became "Let's do the soft, personal stuff." And that didn't work.

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